NAFTA and Trump

 Sentiment Factoring Into NAFTA Negotiations
Colin Robertson – Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Farmscape for August 13, 2018

The Vice-President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute suggests a growing protectionist sentiment within the United States is factoring into the NAFA negotiations.
Negotiations aimed at modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement are essentially on hold until next year awaiting results of the U.S, mid-term elections.
Colin Robertson, the Vice-President and a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says the U.S. public and now a large number of elected representatives in Congress and at the state level, recognize the value of NAFTA but the tide of protectionism is increasing.

Clip-Colin Robertson-Canadian Global Affairs Institute:
Polling, and I rely particularly on Pew, P E W, I think they’re the gold standard for polling in the United States, their most recent poll, which I think was March or April, suggested that a majority of Americans, around 55 to 60 percent see value in free trade agreements.
They think the United States has actually got something out of it.
They see particular value in a Canada-U.S. free trade agreement because they think we’re fair traders.
However the same polling shows that the base of the Republican party is becoming increasingly protectionist, more protectionist indeed than their representatives and it is that base that Donald Trump relies upon.
A good 40 percent to 50 percent of his base is really anti-trade.
When he speaks on trade he’s playing to that base and that is a factor we have to take into account because that’s the group he’s going to rely upon if he wants to seek reelection in 2020.

Robertson  suggests pressure from the farm community, which voted mostly for President Trump, and the manufacturing sector, many of whom voted for President Trump, is probably what has kept him from rescinding the NAFTA but it has not influenced the administration to bend on some of its more unreasonable positions.
For Farmscape.Ca, I’m Bruce Cochrane.

Diplomacy by Tweet

Trudeau says Canada standing firm on Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says diplomatic talks with Saudi Arabia will continue but he’s not backing down on Canada’s criticism of the kingdom over the arrest of several social activists last week.

Trudeau said Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland had a long conversation with her Saudi counterpart on Tuesday and Canada is engaging directly with the Saudi government in a bid to restore diplomatic ties between the two countries. But an apology from Canada or a withdrawal of the human rights concerns Canada raised, is not on the table.

“As the minister has said and as we will repeat, Canada will always speak strongly and clearly in private and in public on questions of human rights,” Trudeau said during an event Wednesday in Montreal.

The diplomatic dispute began last week after Freeland tweeted concerns about the arrests of social activists, including Samar Badawi, who has advocated for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. Her brother, blogger Raif Badawi, has been in prison since 2012 for criticizing the government, but his wife and children live in Quebec and became Canadian citizens earlier this year.

On Aug. 2, Freeland called for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi and, a day later, her department tweeted further criticism and called for the “immediate release” of Samar Badawi and all peaceful human rights activists.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia expelled Canada’s ambassador, suspended diplomatic relations and slammed the door to new trade with Canada. It has since recalled thousands of Saudi students studying in Canada, moved to transfer any Saudi patients out of Canadian hospitals and barred the import of Canadian wheat. As of next week, the Saudi-owned airline will cease direct flights to and from Toronto and there is at least one report that the government has also ordered state-owned pension funds and banks to sell off Canadian assets.

Many Saudi media outlets and online personalities have taken to the web and airwaves to criticize Canada for everything from the opioid epidemic to its treatment of Indigenous Peoples.

Trudeau said Canada’s goal is not to have a bad relationship with Saudi Arabia.

“We don’t want to have poor relations with Saudi Arabia,” he said in French. “It’s a country that has a certain importance in the world and is making progress on human rights. But we will continue to underline challenges when they exist there and everywhere in the world.”

Earlier Wednesday, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Riyadh that Canada has been given the information it needs to correct the tweets and that it’s up to Canada to step up and fix its “big mistake.”

The intensity of Saudi Arabia’s response has puzzled many, who say it is an extreme reaction to a relatively tame tweet that isn’t much different from what Canada has said before.

Former diplomat Colin Robertson, now vice-president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says Saudi Arabia’s “Defcon 3” response is extraordinary, but thinks Canada’s decision to send the message on Twitter may be partly to blame.

“We are becoming too carefree with tweets,” said Robertson.

The 140-character limit, or 280 in some cases, is not enough to allow for the level of nuance that is required in diplomatic relations and tweets may not be subjected to the same rigorous review process, including sign off by the ambassador, that an official statement would be, he said.

“It is diplomacy by tweet that is responsible,” he said. “When you’re the government of Canada and the ministry of foreign affairs you’ve got to be careful.”

Trudeau, who was heavily criticized for his 2017 tweet welcoming refugees to Canada as the U.S. was clamping down on its asylum system, didn’t apologize for making use of the medium in this situation.

“I think people understand that in today’s world there are a broad range of communications tools available to individuals, to countries, to share messages, to make statements,” he said. “We will continue to use the full range of methods of communication as appropriate.”

Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole said his sources have told him it was patronizing language in the Arabic translation of the Canadian tweet that really got the Saudis upset. He said the Trudeau government’s apparent preference for social media over person-to-person communications is a mistake.

“Increasingly, both ministers and departments in this government have started using Twitter as a primary means of expressing concern and that has already caused a number of embarrassments for Trudeau.”

Canada needs to learn from its mistake and work on its face-to-face diplomatic skills, said O’Toole, who nonetheless characterized the Saudi response as being “over the top.”

Pm Trudeau says talks are ongoing between Saudi Arabia and Canada to address the diplomatic dispute. Glen McGregor reports.

Saudi Arabia is reportedly planning to sell off its Canadian assets. CTV’s Michel Boyer reports.

Observers say it is unlikely that Saudi Arabia will back down in an escalating diplomatic feud with Canada. Joyce Napier has the latest.

 

Laura PaytonOttawa News Bureau Online Producer

@laura_payton

Published Wednesday, August 8, 2018 10:37AM EDT 
Last Updated Wednesday, August 8, 2018 4:37PM EDT

OTTAWA — The federal government should have been more careful when it tweeted concerns about the arrest of human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, a former diplomat says.

Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a career diplomat, says “diplomacy by tweet” is a bad way to issue policy statements.

“Diplomacy by tweet is best taken with great care… as we have learned to our cost,” Robertson said in an interview with CTV News.

“You cannot say in 247 characters or 400 characters the nuance that you want to capture in a diplomatic statement.”

Robertson says a tweet about Saudi Arabiaarresting women’s rights activists is the cause of Canada’s current problems with the kingdom, whose leaders took offence to the call for the activists’ “immediate release.”

“They felt it prejudged their judicial system,” he said.

A number of human rights organizations have raised repeated concerns about the Saudi Arabian judicial system, which sentences people to lengthy prison sentences and employs corporal punishment as well as the death penalty. Amnesty International says torture remains common, and activists have been sentenced to death following “grossly unfair trials.”

Former foreign affairs minister John Baird agrees Twitter was the wrong platform on which to send the message.

“This relationship has gone south and it’s gone south fast, and it’s not too late to rescue it,” Baird said in an interview with CTV News.

“We share an important amount of interest with Saudi Arabia. They’re battling the Islamic State, they’re battling Iran, who has taken out the government in the neighbouring country of Yemen, and it’s in our interest to work cooperatively.”

Baird says he spoke for 15 minutes about women’s rights when he met with the man who is now Saudi King Salman. Baird was Canada’s foreign affairs minister from 2011 to 2015. He now advises several companies and has three clients who do business in Saudi Arabia.

Trudeau must fly to Riyadh to speak directly to the King or Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

“You do it respectfully and face to face, and not do diplomacy via Twitter,” Baird said.

Officials say Canada routinely raises human rights issues in private meetings with Saudi Arabia and noted that Freeland raised them in May during a bilateral meeting with the Saudi foreign minister. They did not directly answer whether she raised the concerns noted in the tweet before it was sent.

Speaking in Montreal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Canadian government continues to engage with the Saudi Arabian government.

“The minister of foreign affairs [Chrystia Freeland] had a long conversation with their foreign minister yesterday and diplomatic talks continue,” he said.

“But as the minister has said and as we will repeat, Canada will always speak strongly and clearly in private and in public on questions of human rights.”

Saudi Arabia selling Canadian assets: report

The repercussions now include Saudi Arabia’s central bank and state pension funds issuing orders to eliminate new Canadian investments “no matter the cost,” according to a report by the Financial Times.

The move could explain Tuesday’s poor performance by Canadian markets, which fell due to selling activity by an unknown investor.

The reported sell-off is the latest in a series of measures taken by Saudi Arabia since the Canadian government called on the kingdom to release detained female bloggers and activists.

The Saudi government instructed Saudi nationals staying in Canadian hospitals to leave the country. More than 15,000 post-secondary students were previously ordered to leave Canada and return to Saudi Arabia.

Canada’s ambassador to the country was expelled earlier this week, while the Saudis recalled their own ambassador from Ottawa. Trade has also been frozen between the two countries.

Analysts say the moves suggest Saudi Arabia is using Canada to send a message to the rest of the West about attempts to interfere in what it sees as its internal affairs.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister shifted responsibility for resolving the dispute back to Canada, telling a news conference in Riyadh that “Canada knows what it needs to do,” according to multiple reports.

Adel al-Jubeir said there’s nothing to mediate in the spat, and said Saudi Arabia is considering additional measures against Canada.

“A mistake has been made and a mistake should be corrected,” he said, according to a Reuters report.

The Canadian government says it continues to seek clarity from the kingdom “on various issues” and referred questions about the reported asset sell-off, as well as about the foreign minister’s remarks, to the Saudi government.

“The Embassy’s trade officers in addition to the wider Trade Commissioner Service are actively engaged with Canadian business interests and will continue to work with them and the relevant authorities in the coming days,” Amy Mills wrote in an email to BNN Bloomberg.

Export Development Canada, a Crown corporation that provides financing and advice to Canadian exporters, says it is reviewing its position on Saudi Arabia. The commercial institution had the country listed as open for business with a low risk of political interference, the National Post said Tuesday. By Wednesday it had removed the previous assessment and noted the review is happening “in light of recent events.”

With files from CTVNews.ca staff

Trudeau going into Year Four

Justin Trudeau is in trouble, but he can fix that

Michael Bociurkiw is a global affairs analyst and a former spokesperson for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. A native of Canada, he has written for the Globe & Mail, the Winnipeg Free Press and frequently comments on Canadian television. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his; view more opinions on CNN.

(CNN)There was a jarring sense of déjà vu last week in Canada as images of yet another attack on innocent civilians in Toronto played out on newscasts. A reportedly mentally ill man went on a gun rampage on Sunday evening in Toronto’s popular Danforth neighborhood, killing two people and injuring 13 others. The attack occurred less than three months after a man drove a van into pedestrians in another busy part of Toronto, killing 10 people.

And those were just in 2018. In January 2017, in Quebec City, a man using a restricted firearm killed six people and injured others. And in September of that year, in Edmonton, a man carried out a stabbing and van attack, injuring five.
According to Toronto police, up to half of the guns on the streets of Toronto are smuggled in from the US, and the Canada Border Services Agency is routinely seizing illegal firearms at the Canada-US border. (Media reports say the semi-automatic handgun used in last week’s Sunday shooting originated in the US, although Canadian-sourced illegal firearms arms are a big part of police seizures as well).
Michael Bociurkiw

And these stories are not just anecdotal. According to the Canadian government, the number of homicide victims killed by firearms has been steadily increasing over the last three years. With gun violence on the rise in North America’s fourth-largest city, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must now contend with growing calls for a crackdown on guns in Canada where, unlike in the US, people do not have a constitutional right to bear arms.
The surge in violence on Canadian streets adds to the list of issues Trudeau is going to have to deal with as he prepares for a federal election next year. Just three years into his mandate, the photogenic Trudeau must juggle a host of controversies that have hurt his popularity. Introducing a possible handgun ban in response to the violence and adding a new post for “border security and organized crime reduction” in a cabinet shuffle on July 18 are some of the ways Trudeau is getting battle ready.
But it will take more than that. With his protracted honeymoon over, Trudeau must project himself less as a Prime Minister known for viral selfies and more as a decisive leader willing to stand up to external threats. That may require a shakeup of his own team to prioritize issues management and damage control.
His focus should be on what he can control, starting with curbing the flow of migrants crossing into Canada. Ottawa is also under growing pressure from provincial premiers and big city mayors who say they are overwhelmed with the burden of caring for new migrants who can languish for years as they grind their way through Canada’s notoriously clogged immigration processing system. Last year alone, more than 20,000 “irregular” asylum seekers were intercepted by police along the US-Canada border. These are individuals who have either transited through the US or have already claimed asylum in the US and use a loophole to cross into Canada where the chances of staying are much higher (all the while receiving such benefits as free health care, shelter and work permits).
Little of what the government has done so far has plugged the loophole, and if the northward flow continues, the Trudeau government could be forced to make the entire border off limits to those who don’t use official crossings. Although images of distressed asylum seekers from Nigeria and Haiti may not play well on TV in an election season, cracking down on what some Canadians regard as queue jumpers would have little political downside.
Tough language, a cabinet shuffle and making Canadians feel safer. But with just a little over a year to go before voters head to the polls, is this too little, too late?
Recent public opinion polls seem to indicate a bumpy road ahead for Trudeau, who came into office at 43 with little political experience but good looks, charm and a weighty legacy as the son of Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s third-longest serving prime minister.
According to CBC’s poll tracker, which incorporates several public opinion surveys, with a spread of less than 1%, if an election were held today, the Liberals would either be defeated or end up with a minority government.
Considering that in 2015 the Liberals achieved the largest-ever seat gain in a Canadian election, the plunge in popularity is nothing short of stunning.
Many trace the pivot point back to the Prime Minister’s disastrous week-long, state visit to India last February, when he was widely ridiculed for dressing his entire family in traditional Indian attire. (As Sun Media’s Adrienne Batra put it, the India visit featured more wardrobe changes than a Cher concert). Further damage came first from revelations that a convicted terrorist, Jaspal Atwal, had been invited to two events with the Prime Minister, and then from suggestions from an official in Ottawa that factions in the Indian government had sabotaged Trudeau’s visit.
With an election on the horizon, the disastrous India visit is expected to make for explosive campaign ammunition. “The Tories will play and re-play the India trip dress-up that went down very badly. The lesson being, don’t combine family trips with state visits,” said Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
Justin Trudeau addresses groping allegations

Justin Trudeau addresses groping allegations 00:57
But also looming in the background, and considered by pundits as legitimate election fodder, are groping allegations against Trudeau from 18 years ago that have just become public and which many feel have been insufficiently addressed by the Liberal leader, who’s branded himself as a fierce defender of women, even booting a Liberal MP from the cabinet for allegedly calling a woman “yummy” almost a decade ago. Having raised the ethical bar so high, and yet possibly unable to live up to his own standards, the gap will almost certainly be played by political opponents as evidence of hypocrisy. As for Trudeau, he has gone on the record saying he has no recollections of the incident but added, “I respect the fact that someone else might have experienced that differently.”
Then there is a questionable environmental record, damaged by the government’s billion dollar bailout of a controversial pipeline that would bring oil from Alberta, via British Columbia, to Pacific Ocean ports. The nationalization of the US energy firm Kinder Morgan’s pipeline has already generated heated protests in BC and has called into question Trudeau’s green credentials. And it could get worse — a lot worse — should environmental activists and aboriginal groups block construction bulldozers. Ottawa political analyst Yaroslav Baran told me “At the end of the day, if there are First Nations protesters chained to the pipeline right of way, Mr. Trudeau won’t have the guts to send in the army to remove them.”
But, as Canadians prepare for the next election, Trudeau may benefit from an unlikely source: President Donald Trump. In the past weeks, the Trump team has mercilessly taunted Trudeau and rallied against Canada for everything from unfair trade practices to disagreements at the G7 summit in Quebec. Trudeau has been fiercely standing up for Canada — or donning the “Captain Canada hat” as Baran puts it — which in turn has been giving him a slight boost in the polls.
And with every anti-Canada or anti-Trudeau tweet, it’s the gift that could keep on giving for the Trudeau camp. “The federal government’s firm but polite pushback against an increasingly combative Donald Trump on the international stage is playing well politically for the Trudeau government,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute of Vancouver.
But, as she and others pointed out, if job layoffs, especially in the auto sector, start to occur as a result of the trade disputes, the going could get really tough for the Trudeau government. He may need to get relief from punitive tariffs from Trump — similar to what the EU achieved last week — all the while shoring up the Canadian economy against growing competition from a super-charged US economy.

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Why NATO Matters

July 10, 2018 6:39 am
Updated: July 10, 2018 8:48 pm

Justin Trudeau adding more Canadian troops in Latvia, extending mission

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada is extending its NATO commitment in Latvia by another four years to March 2023 and will boost the number of troops in the country to 540 from the current 455 in a show of ongoing solidarity with the alliance.

WATCH: Canada extending mission in Latvia; adding more troops

Trudeau made the announcement in Riga following a meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis and indicated that he hopes the increased Canadian commitment to Latvia gets the attention of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

READ MORE: Why Donald Trump’s attacks on NATO might make some leaders less likely to spend more

Canada is part of a NATO battle group in Latvia, which was established as the alliance’s response to Russia’s surprise annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its invasion of eastern Ukraine.

“We certainly hope that the message is passed clearly to President Putin that his actions in destabilizing and disregarding the international rules-based order that has been successfully underpinned by NATO amongst others over the past 75 years or so is extremely important,” said Trudeau.

“We certainly hope that Russia will choose to become a more positive actor in world affairs than it has chosen to be in the past.”

The Canadian-led group is one of four in the region, and includes troops from seven NATO allies. Germany leads a similar force in Lithuania, Britain leads one in Estonia and the U.S. leads in Poland.

WATCH: Trudeau reaffirms NATO commitment ahead of contentious meeting

Before leaving Canada on Monday, Trudeau spoke to NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg by telephone to stress the “importance of the alliance’s unity and solidarity on defence and security issues.”

Trudeau’s announcement comes a day ahead of a NATO summit in Brussels, where the stage is set for another confrontation between world leaders and Donald Trump, as Canada and other NATO allies prepare to counter the U.S. president’s complaint that they aren’t carrying their fair share of the burden of being part of the military alliance.

Trudeau also met in Riga Tuesday with Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis.

READ MORE: Final rotation of soldiers returns to Edmonton from NATO-led operation in Poland

He also laid flowers at the monument of freedom and took part in a number of activities at a military base in Adazi. Trudeau also attended a candlelight vigil at a Latvian memorial to fallen soldiers, a vehicle display by multinational troops and spoke to Canadian military personnel.

Trudeau’s visit to Latvia comes as the stage is set for another confrontation between world leaders and Donald Trump, with Canada and other NATO allies preparing to counter the U.S. president’s persistent complaint that they aren’t carrying their fair share of the burden of being part of the 69-year-old military alliance.

LISTEN: Retired diplomat Colin Robertson looks at the history and importance of NATO

https://globalnews.ca/news/4322396/justin-trudeau-canadian-troops-latvia-extending-mission/

Trump’s ongoing efforts to portray Canada and other member states as pinching pennies when it comes to the military spending target of two per cent of GDP – a benchmark agreed to by allies at the 2014 summit in Wales.

Trump has threatened to pull out of the alliance entirely if other member nations don’t pony up.

WATCH: Canadian soldiers in Latvia send messages home for Canada Day 2017

The president acknowledged Monday on Twitter that other member states have increased their defence spending, but repeated his complaint that the U.S. contributes far more than other countries, which he said “is not fair nor is it acceptable.”

If the U.S. were to leave NATO, it would have a “huge and highly negative” affect on Canada, said David Perry, a senior defence analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“If you take his rhetoric at full value … it would actually start to undermine the solidarity alliance, it would be hugely consequential for Canada because NATO has been so important to it.”

Having a forum in which Canada can engage in discussions about key security issues with the U.S. as part of a larger alliance of nations also offers Canada some counterweight that doesn’t exist in North America alone, where the United States is the “800-pound gorilla,” Perry added.

WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Latvia visiting with Canadian troops stationed there

But given that Trump has followed through on other threats – including tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and the European Union, as well as a full-blown trade war with China – Perry said allies ought to be concerned about the possibility that Trump isn’t bluffing.

“He does seem to have a habit of doing what he says he’s going to do.”

Concerns about U.S. disengagement have also deepened given that Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin just days after the summit.

Some see the controversial meeting as an undermining of the alliance itself, considering some of NATO’s active military missions – including the one in Latvia – were undertaken in direct response to Russia’s escalating aggression in the Baltic region.

“The Trump-Putin summit could potentially aggravate U.S. allies who want to isolate Putin,” said Jayson Derow, a research analyst at the NATO Association of Canada.

READ MORE: New best friends? Canada and Latvia have some ties, but some work to do

“However, while U.S. President Donald Trump’s rhetoric has surely shaken the confidence of U.S. allies and NATO members across the Atlantic, the alliance is still standing and the Trump administration has taken tangible steps to bolster the alliance and European security, while countering Moscow with the sales of military hardware and its own deployments in eastern Europe.”

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Harper to White House

Harper blindsides Trudeau PMO, plans visit to White House

CTV National News: Email tipped off Harper visit

Rachel AielloOttawa News Bureau Online Producer

@rachaiello

Thursday, June 28, 2018 10:40PM EDT

OTTAWA — Former prime minister Stephen Harper is planning a trip to the White House next week, and hasn’t notified the current Canadian government of his visit, CTV News has learned.

According to emails obtained by CTV News, American officials are expecting Harper to visit D.C. on July 2, the day after Canada’s retaliatory tariffs on imports of U.S. goods and American-made steel and aluminum are set to come into effect.

It is unclear what the purpose of Harper’s visit is, and how long it has been in the works, but officials say he is planning to meet with American National Security Adviser John Bolton, who was the U.S. ambassador to the UN when Harper was prime minister. It is possible that Harper could also be meeting with Larry Kudlow, Trump’s economic adviser.

In planning his visit, the former prime minister has effectively blindsided the current Canadian government, bucking convention by not notifying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or his office about the visit. Harper also did not reach out to the Canadian embassy in D.C., Global Affairs Canada, or the Privy Council Office.

Canadian officials only learned about the expected visit after Bolton’s office contacted the Canadian embassy in Washington to inquire about who would be coming with the prime minister to the meeting.

The unanticipated Trudeau visit was news to them, so the embassy contacted the PMO.

Eventually, U.S. officials realized it was a case of confused identity and they were actually expecting the former prime minister, Harper.

CTV News has reached out to Harper’s office for comment, but has not received an answer, leaving uncertainty about whether the visit will actually happen.

Neither the White House nor Bolton’s office is commenting at this time, and sources close to the former prime minister say Harper currently has no trip confirmed, though he is said to be pursuing meetings in D.C.

The sources pointed to the former prime minister’s travel related to his work as Chair of the International Democrat Union (ID), or on behalf of the Friends of Israel, which Bolton is part of.

A series of tweets from Harper Thursday show him meeting with international leaders in Europe related to his work with the IDU, including the Aga Khan. In one, Harper said: “I appreciate all the interest in the #IDU this week, and as IDU Chairman I look forward to continuing to engage with conservatives globally wherever I travel.”

 

Stephen Harper

@stephenharper

Thank you to President Pastrana for his invitation to join @CDI_IDC meetings in Brussels today. I appreciate all the interest in the this week, and as IDU Chairman I look forward to continuing to engage with conservatives globally wherever I travel.

 

Former Canadian diplomat and vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute Colin Robertson said that if the trip is to happen it would be courteous given the state of relations, to notify the current administration. He said the convention among past prime ministers who make trips to meet cabinet-level U.S. officials, is to at least alert the Canadian ambassador to the U.S.

Though, Robertson said he suspects that like other past leaders, Harper would inform the current Liberal government about any intel gleaned from his meetings related to the state of the relationship, regardless of their political differences.

This move comes amid heightened tensions in the Canada-U.S. relationship with the prospect of a full-blown trade war on the horizon, including new tariffs on autos. U.S. President Donald Trump and his officials have also engaged in personal attacks on Trudeau via televised appearances and social media.

After avoiding the spotlight in the months after his defeat in the 2015 federal election, Harper has made a return to the international scene. He got international headlines in the last year over his comments about the Canada-U.S. relationship and the American administration, some of which have been in stark contrast with the current Canadian government’s policy, while other times he’s defended Canada’s position.

In October, The Canadian Press reported on a leaked memo from the former prime minister to clients of his firm Harper & Associates. In the memo, titled “Napping on NAFTA,” Harper criticized Trudeau’s approach after returning from a trip to D.C.

Then in May he raised eyebrows for being among several former international leaders and diplomats to co-sign a full-page advertisement in the New York Times hailing Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

At that time, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan described Harper weighing in publicly as “not helpful.”

In an interview on CTV’s Power Play, Sajjan said that in his view, Canada should be speaking with one voice when it comes to U.S. policy, citing the ongoing NAFTA talks. His take was a departure from the message track of Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who said as a private citizen Harper was entitled to his opinion.

Earlier this month, Harper appeared on Fox News where he weighed in on the state of NAFTA talks. He said he understood Trump’s position, but also highlighted the American trade surplus, saying Canada was the wrong target for a trade fight.

On Wednesday, he was speaking at a Five Eyes panel discussion in London, U.K., where he said he thinks Trump’s “America First” policy will outlast the president’s tenure and that the “rapid, unorthodox, populist political change” will be part of the American fabric after Trump leaves office.

With a report from CTV News’ Ottawa Bureau Chief Joyce Napier and with files from Senior Political Correspondent Glen McGregor

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Retaliation on Trade

Republicans pressure Trump to drop tariffs after Trudeau retaliation, but it might not matter, say U.S. trade watchers

By PETER MAZEREEUW      
‘Whether or not you can pressure an administration that has no policy, no direction, and no philosophy, I don’t know,’ says ex-Democratic U.S. trade representative Mickey Kantor.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, announced plans on May 31 to bring in retaliatory tariffs on certain U.S. exports to Canada, beginning July 1, if President Donald Trump’s administration did not reverse newly-imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum. The Hill Times photographs by Andrew Meade

Republican lawmakers are pushing back against U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., likely making the case that the move could pave the road to his impeachment, say a former trade adviser to U.S. politicians and a Canadian lobbyist tracking the trade battle.

“The only hope there is the Republican leadership gets inside the head of the administration to say, ‘Whatever you’re trying to achieve, you’re going to lose the House in November. And if you lose the House in November, we’re immediately into questions of impeachment,’” said Flavio Volpe, president of Canada’s Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, a lobby group for an industry that relies on steel and aluminum crossing the Canada-U.S. border.

“That’s an argument they’ll certainly make,” said a former trade adviser to Republican and Democratic lawmakers, adding, “I don’t think that it will cause the president to withdraw the tariffs.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) could hardly have hoped for a better outcome after he responded to Mr. Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico, and the EU by imposing retaliatory penalties—effective July 1—on U.S. steel and aluminum, and a variety of other goods produced in U.S. swing states or the electoral districts of influential Republican lawmakers. Numerous Republican politicians have openly spoken against Mr. Trump’s decision, U.S. industry groups have done the same, and even the powerful conservative advocacy groups backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, including Americans For Prosperity, are campaigning against Mr. Trump’s tariffs.

It’s not clear to what extent the Republican backlash is related to Canada’s counter-tariffs, however. Several lobbyists and analysts following U.S. trade issues closely said the penalties brought in by Canada’s government have created some pressure on Republicans and the White House, as intended, by hitting the pocketbooks of businesses that export to Canada and are represented by Republican lawmakers. But some of the politicians who have spoken out or taken action against the tariffs—including Republican House speaker Paul Ryan, who was targeted by Canada’s counter-tariffs, and the Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker—have already said they won’t run for re-election, theoretically diminishing the threat unhappy constituents would pose to them.

“Clearly across the country, in many places, what they have done is going to adversely affect campaigns for Republicans in the House and Senate where the Democrats have a chance, certainly to win the House, if not the Senate,” said Mickey Kantor, who served as the U.S. trade representative, the highest-ranking trade official in the government, under former Democratic president Bill Clinton.

“And that’s exactly what puts the Republicans under pressure. Now, whether that can pressure this president, is quite another question,” he said.

“Whether or not you can pressure an administration that has no policy, no direction, and no philosophy, I don’t know,” he said.

Mr. Trump took aim squarely at Canada after the G7 meeting in Charlevoix, Quebec last weekend, and a closing press conference in which Mr. Trudeau said Canada wouldn’t be pushed around by the U.S. on trade. Mr. Trump fired off a series of tweets in which he called Mr. Trudeau “meek and mild” and “dishonest and weak.” He left the G7 summit early, refusing to sign onto declarations about reducing plastic waste and climate change.

Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, appeared on CNN Sunday that Mr. Trudeau had “stabbed us in the back.” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told Fox News “there’ a special place in hell for for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J.  Trump,” referencing Mr. Trudeau.

‘Dicey’ for Republicans to take on Trump

The Democrats are thought to have a strong chance of taking back majority control of the House from the Republicans in November’s mid-term elections, needing to win 24 Republican seats while keeping their own, with the party polling well and more Republican-held seats appearing vulnerable than those held by Democrats, according to reporting from The Financial TimesThe New York Times, CNN, Fivethirtyeight.com, and others.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump team’s possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 election campaign, once completed, could produce evidence that Democrats could use to begin impeachment proceedings. If a majority of House members vote to impeach, the U.S. Senate would ultimately decide whether to accept that decision. Two-thirds of Senators would have to vote in favour of impeachment, The New York Times reported. The Republicans have a majority in the Senate, however, and are thought to have a good chance at holding it after the midterms.

“I’m not sure that he is convinced” that impeachment is a realistic outcome, said the former trade adviser, speaking on a not-for-attribution basis. “And at the end of the day, he doesn’t care about anyone but himself.”

Republicans vying for re-election are under pressure to support Mr. Trump’s actions, as the president can undermine their bids to stay in office by backing their challengers for the Republican nomination, which is not automatically awarded to incumbents, said Maryscott Greenwood, the CEO of the Canadian American Business Council, a government relations consultant at Dentons’ in Washington, and a former U.S. diplomat to Canada.

“That’s why it’s dicey to take him on,” she said.

“What [Mr. Trump] is doing is politically popular in the Republican base among Trump voters,” she added.

Mr. Trump’s White House team is digging into the “loyalty” of Republican members of Congress as it decides which races Mr. Trump should lend his support to, or not, CNN reported last week.  The White House is also considering doubling down, and imposing additional trade penalties on Canada in response to Mr. Trudeau’s retaliatory tariffs, The Washington Postreported last week.

Some Republicans may not feel pressured to react to Canada’s threat of counter-tariffs until it becomes a reality, and businesses in their district start to feel financial pain, said Ms. Greenwood.

Bill Huizenga, the Republican representative for Michigan’s second district, told The Hill Times that delay could be a reality for some lawmakers, but “for some of us it’s very ripe and we want to deal with it.”

“Some polling will say that people are in favour of this, and the population are in favour of this, but part of that might be they haven’t seen some of the ramifications of it. I’m not just talking with Canada and NAFTA. I’m talking larger scale,” he said.

“What I have expressed both publicly and privately is that I’m afraid that the actions from the [U.S.] administration, while they may be well meaning, are a misguided effort to recapture a world that really no longer exists that way that it once did.”

Republican Senator brings bill to rein in president

Sen. Corker made a splash last week by introducing a bill that would force the president to seek approval from Congress before introducing tariffs under national security provisions of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which Mr. Trump used to bring in the penalties against steel and aluminum from Canada and other countries.

That bill would apply to any decisions made in the past two years as well, essentially giving Congress a veto over Mr. Trump’s tariffs on Canada. Sen. Corker has support from nine other Senators in both parties, The Denver Post reported. The bill has a tough road ahead, however. Time to pass it before the midterms is running short, with a summer break looming. The former trade adviser said the bill was unlikely to attract enough support from Republicans—wary of a backlash from Mr. Trump—and Democrats, some of whom are protectionist, and favour U.S. trade restrictions.

Mr. Trump called Sen. Corker on the day he introduced the legislation, and the two had what the Senator described as a “lengthy” and “heartfelt” conversation, CNN reported. Mr. Trump would have the power to veto the legislation if it advanced through both chambers of Congress.

Mr. Trump’s treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, also urged the president to exempt Canada from the steel and aluminum tariffs, ABC News reported last week, after Finance Minister Bill Morneau (Toronto Centre, Ont.) and his counterparts in the G7 issued a statement urging him to do so.

Mr. Trump hasn’t shown signs of backing down yet, tweeting late last week that Mr. Trudeau was “being so indignant” and that Canada’s protected dairy sector was “killing our agriculture.”

“Trudeau has no option but to retaliate,” said Mr. Kantor. “Simply because, for domestic purposes, if not anything else, I would assume that the business community and regular folks in Canada are upset at what the U.S. has done and demand that Canada respond.”

Editor’s note: this story was updated online to include the outcome of the G7 summit that ended June 9.

peter@hilltimes.com

@PJMazereeuw

Who put Canada’s tariff list together, and how

Canada’s list of retaliatory tariffs includes 44 categories of steel and aluminum products—a tit-for-tat response to the U.S. tariffs on Canada—and 84 categories of other products, ranging from playing cards to yogurt.

Those other categories in particular were strategically selected by Canadian officials to put pressure on businesses in the electoral districts of influential U.S. Senators and representatives, particularly Republicans.

Public servants in Global Affairs Canada, including in the U.S. embassy and consulates, worked with peers in the Finance, Agriculture, and Innovation departments to assemble the list, according to Global Affairs spokesperson John Babcock. The offices of the ministers for those departments and the PMO and PCO were also involved, he said.

The government tried to ensure the products being considered for inclusion on the list were finished products, and therefore unlikely to be materials Canadian companies rely upon to make their own goods, and to ensure that non-U.S. alternatives were easily accessible for Canadian consumers, said an official from Global Affairs, speaking on background.

Staff in Global Affairs and the Canadian embassy and consulates would have brought in the knowledge of which states exported which products, said Peter Clark, a trade-focused consultant at Grey, Clark, Shih, and Associates and a former trade official for the Canadian government.

“The steel items are a no-brainer—they simply  copied the U.S. list and invited Canadians to comment to ensure they can avoid injury to Canada,” he said.

Canada has sharpened its approach to assembling these retaliatory tariff lists over the years, said Colin Robertson, a vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and former Canadian diplomat in the U.S.. Mr. Robertson said he was involved with similar efforts related to softwood lumber disputes in the 1990s and mid-2000s.

“We worked closely with Finance and Industry [Canada] and our own sector specialists. We did not reach out to consulates,” he said in an emailed statement. “We also have more data crunching capacity today to figure out where goods are produced and link it to congressional districts and states.”

Canada’s last government under prime minister Stephen Harper took a more thorough approach to assembling a list of retaliatory tariffs after the Obama administration supported Country of Origin Labelling requirements—commonly abbreviated to COOL—for Canadian meat.

Finance Canada is responsible for tariffs, and took the lead on assembling the COOL list, said Adam Taylor, a trade consultant for Export Action Global who was working as a senior staffer for then-trade minister, now Conservative MP Ed Fast (Abbotsford, B.C.).

“The bureaucracy are best equipped to know that stuff, because our embassy is supposed to track who’s influential with the administration,” and who you can “raise the ire of” if you need leverage, said Mr. Taylor.

The list of counter-tariffs included orange juice, targeting Florida, an important swing state where Republican Governor Rick Scott is challenging Democratic Senator Bill Nelson for his seat; whisky, targeting Kentucky, the home of Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell; yogurt, targeting Republican House speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin, the second-largest exporter of the product to Canada among U.S. states, after New York; and more.

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Trudeau and the G7

Canadian internationalism and Trudeau’s leadership in the spotlight at G7

Justin Trudeau’s leadership skills will be tested this week when G7 leaders assemble at the majestic Manoir Richelieu in Charlevoix, Quebec.

Now in its 44th year, it is easy to dismiss G7 summitry as an expensive talk fest. We should look at its  $600 million price-tag as an insurance premium for global wellbeing. And frank talk among leaders of the great liberal democracies is needed now more than ever.

The erosion of public trust in liberal democracies’ institutions – government, business, the media and NGOs –is profoundly disturbing. The public needs to see its leaders taking action on the big issues of the day. The Charlevoix agenda provides that opportunity, covering gender, work, climate, energy, the oceans, protectionism, populism and extremism.

American protectionism will be top of mind in the wake of the steel and aluminium tariffs and the threat of more to come. The G7 finance ministers and bank governors drew the lines last week in Whistler highlighting the “negative impact of unilateral trade actions by the United States.”

Donald Trump will be as welcome as the proverbial skunk at the garden party. The other leaders need to take him on but not give him an excuse to walk out. As chair, Mr. Trudeau’s task is to keep the tone civil and constructive.

In recent weeks Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron have had a go at Mr. Trump on the trade differences as well as Mr. Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal. Perhaps G7 leaders, collectively, can convince him that it is better to reform, not rubbish, the rules-based international system.

A useful outcome would be agreement on how to improve dispute settlement at the World Trade Organization. Leaders should also try to get ahead of the curve and come up with a collective approach to addressing Mr. Trump’s concerns about the auto industry. More tit-for-tat tariffs are not the answer.

The G7 summit is the pinnacle of a year-long process. The deliverables outlined in the final communique will be a measure of Canadian industry in the long process that culminates with the Leaders’ summit.

open quote 761b1bDonald Trump will be as welcome as the proverbial skunk at the garden party. The other leaders need to take him on but not give him an excuse to walk out. As chair, Mr. Trudeau’s task is to keep the tone civil and constructive.

Last week in Whistler, G7 development ministers agreed to make gender equality central to development policy and approved a slew of initiatives. It is a testament to consistent Canadian leadership dating back decades, especially on empowering women, including Stephen Harper’s focus at the UN on maternal and child health. The French promise to pick up the gender baton as they host the 2019 G7 summit.

Leaders are also expected to endorse a practical plan to rid the oceans of plastics. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that 311 million tonnes of plastic were produced in 2014. Without the kind of action proposed by the G7, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.

We can also expect blunt talk from Mr. Trump about allies paying “their fair share” of defence costs.

Canada remains at the low end of G7 nations, as a percentage of GDP spent on defence, but Mr. Trudeau can point to a series of initiatives, taken on his watch, that put Canadians at the sharp end in support of collective security. Canada leads the NATO brigade in Latvia. Our Special Forces are in the Middle East.  Royal Canadian Navy warships are in three oceans and our submarines are now into far waters. An RCAF plane is part of UN surveillance on North Korea. And Canadian Forces will soon be part of the UN peace operations in Mali.

It’s the 60th anniversary of our continental defence alliance. Mr. Trudeau needs to visit NORAD headquarters in Colorado. He should invite Mr. Trump to join him. It would visibly underline to Americans that Canada is a steadfast ally and make a mockery of Mr. Trump’s national security argument – the pernicious excuse for the steel and aluminium tariffs.

A year ago this week, Chrystia Freeland, Harjit Sajjan and Marie-Claude Bibeau spelled out the Trudeau government’s foreign policy. It is built on the themes of multilateralism and collective security with a focus on a feminist development policy and a progressive trade policy.

Each of these themes has guided Canada’s G7 stewardship. How they are reflected in the final communique will be a measure of the new Canadian internationalism and Mr. Trudeau’s standing with his peers.


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Donald Trump and G7

G7: Donald Trump versus the rest of the world

Leaders of seven of the world’s biggest economies are in Canada for what could be most acrimonious G7 summit in years.

A trade war looms as America’s allies threaten retaliation against US President Donald Trump’s trade tariffs.

The leaders of seven of the world’s biggest economies are in Canada for what could be the most acrimonious G7 summit in years.

Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium imports have caused outrage and a war of words with other world leaders.

The US president also finds himself virtually isolated on the Iran nuclear deal and climate change.

A showdown seems imminent.

So are we closer to a trade war that could derail the global economy?And will America First leave America Behind?

Presenter: Elizabeth Puranam Al Jeezera Inside Story

Guests:

Colin Robertson – former Canadian diplomat and vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute

Inderjeet Parmar – department of international politics at City, University of London

Seijiro Takeshita – dean at the school of management and information at the University of Shizuoka

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G7 Tying Gulliver Down

POLITICS

06/06/2018 12:12 EDT | Updated 20 hours ago

G7 Without Trump? Experts Say His Presence Needed Despite Tariff Fight

The U.S. president’s world view doesn’t jive with his fellow global leaders.

EVAN VUCCI/AP VIA CP
Leaders of the G7, from left, European Council President Donald Tusk, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and President Donald Trump pose for a family photo at the Ancient Greek Theater of Taormina on May 26, 2017, in Taormina, Italy.

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G7 BBC view

Tariffs and Trump: Why the G7 summit in Canada could be awkward

By Jessica MurphyBBC News, Toronto

 

Image copyrightAFPImage captionHappier times… before the rift over Trump’s tariffs

Leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations are about to descend on a luxury hotel located in a small Canadian tourist town in Quebec. But it’s unclear if there’s more to divide or unite them.

Canada, which holds the G7 presidency this year, will host the leaders of the US, Italy, France, Germany, the UK and Japan in the town of La Malbaie,

Here are four things to know before the two-day summit begins on Friday.

  1. Canada, meet Donald Trump. Donald Trump, meet Canada

Since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, new American presidents have had an unofficial tradition – making Canada the destination for their first foreign trip.

George W Bush broke with tradition when he took a day trip to Mexico, but it wasn’t long before he travelled north for the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec City.

Donald Trump waited longer – some 500 days into his presidency.

This Charlevoix Summit will be the first time he pays a visit to his northern neighbour as American leader.

The US president is unlikely to get the rock star welcome received by his predecessor, Barack Obama, who was greeted in 2009 by people gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to catch a glimpse of the politician.

Mr Trump isn’t as popular as Mr Obama was among Canadians, and he is currently sparring with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau over US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.

2. Expect awkward conversations

On Saturday, G7 finance officials issued a rebuke over the “negative impact” of the US metals tariffs and urged “decisive action” on the matter when world leaders meet in La Malbaie.

Image captionLa Malbaie

It won’t be the first time Mr Trump’s stances on trade and other policy matters have caused friction among his world leader colleagues.

In fact, it could be more G6 + 1 than G7.

During the Italy summit in 2017, the US leader was left isolated over Paris climate change deal.

He was the lone man out when the other leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris accord, the world’s first comprehensive deal aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions.

“We have a situation of six against one,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the time.

Mr Trump later announced his intention to withdraw the US from the Paris deal.

Image copyrightAFP/GETTY IMAGESImage captionQuebec City is preparing for journalists, delegates and protesters to descend in the town for the G7

This time around, Mr Trump will undoubtedly be held to task over the recent metals tariffs slapped on Canada, Mexico and the European Union (EU).

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk will also both be attending the summit.

Canada is also in the midst of intense North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the US and Mexico.

A Canadian official who briefed journalists prior to the summit said it’s fair to say that any economic talks “will quickly go to a discussion on trade”.

“There will be a discussion and the president will be participating,” he said.

3. The ‘lonely hearts club’

John Kirton, director of G7 Research Group, says that inevitably, the leaders will find more that unites them than divide them.

He says the gathering is a uniquely intimate summit where some of the world’s most powerful political leaders can gather “face-to-face around a fireside, a dining room table”.

Image captionLa Malbaie

“The summit is the perfect place for leaders to freewheel, to say what they want, to be politically incorrect, to complain about their own domestic media.

“It’s a lonely hearts club, a kind of group therapy.”

He adds it won’t be the first time the consensus-based group finds itself divided since it came into being following the OPEC oil crisis in 1973.

The Canadian official said the meeting’s format allows for world leaders to have “a frank and full exchange”.

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionNations are expected to announce commitments to reducing plastic waste in the world’s oceans

But as host, Canada is “working to bridge the differences that exists”.

There are fives themes for this year’s summit, which are:

  • Inclusive economic growth
  • Gender equality and women’s empowerment
  • World peace and security
  • Jobs of the future
  • Climate change and oceans

Colin Robertson, with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute summed it up in recent report on the coming Summit as “gender, work, climate, energy, our oceans, protectionism, populism and extremism”.

Foreign policy issues expected to be discussed include the planned meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, tensions with Russia, China’s global influence, and the crisis in Venezuela.

Mr Kirton says he expects three main “deliverables” to come out of the Charlevoix Summit.

They include taking action to prevent foreign interference in democratic elections, an issue that falls directly into the central responsibility of the G7 for defending and spreading democratic governance.

Image copyrightREUTERSImage captionBritish PM Theresa May is expected to discuss US tariffs with President Donald Trump

It also comes at a time when the member nations have seen the public lose trust in government institutions.

coalition of 30 non-governmental groups are also hoping the countries, whose economies represent 45% of global GDP, will raise $1.3bn (£970m) for educating girls in developing countries.

“Summits are often a great global fundraiser,” says Mr Kirton.

Finally, the countries are expected to make commitments on removing plastics from the oceans – an environmental issue that has grown in prominence in recent months – and on making coastal communities more resilient.

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